Deputy Chief Minister James Masing has warned owners of native customary land in his Baleh constituency against using a dam project in the area to extort the Sarawak Government.
“Even titled land in Kapit doesn’t cost RM70,000 an acre,” said Masing in remarks quoted by the Borneo Post. “So, NCR landowners should not be unrealistic.”
He was directing his comments at the Genturung Nanga Antawau Landowners Committee, headed by Jeffrey Kumbong.
Masing skipped Kumbong’s allegation that the longhouse people were not consulted by state power company Sarawak Energy Berhad about the RM9 billion Baleh hydro-electric power dam project.
He accused NCR landowners upriver of Nanga Antawau of “lying” to him. “They should be realistic on the value of their land,” he said, advising them to look at market value and not pluck figures out of thin air.
Masing did not rule out the possibility that NCR landowners were trying to discourage the state government from acquiring their land. However, he assured all those affected by the dam project that the government would be fair to them.
“We have been fair with all the people affected by dam construction in other places.”
The Baleh Dam project is expected to link 35 longhouses by road and provide jobs for locals especially during the construction phase.
It has been reported that construction has begun on the Baleh Road, 73km from the Batang Baleh Bridge to the Baleh Dam, located upstream of the Nanga Antawau longhouse.
It has been estimated that only 10 per cent of NCR land in Sarawak have titles. This involves only temuda, cultivated NCR land around the longhouses.
Pakai menoa (land further away) and Pulau Galau (communal forest), also NCR land according to the Adat (customary law) of the Orang Asal, is not recognised by the Sarawak Government as NCR land, but as state land.
Land rights advocates cite Federal Court rulings that customary law, Adat, has the force of law.
Those whose land is acquired by the government can pursue the matter in court but only for compensation if the acquisition was for a public purpose.
The government, under the law, cannot acquire private land for private purposes.
It has been alleged by rights advocates that many plantation companies have been given Provisional Leases (PL) to NCR land without the knowledge of their Orang Asal owners. In that case, those affected have three years to initiate a judicial review in court on the provisional leases.
FMT Reporters Online